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Sparta (other-Greek Σπάρτη, Lat. Sparta) or Lacedaemon (other Greek: ΛακεδαίΜων, Lat. Lacedaemon is an ancient state in Greece in the Laconia region in the south of the Peloponnese peninsula.

The emergence of the state in Sparta, usually attributed to the VIII-VII centuries BC, was based on the general laws of decomposition of the primitive communal system. But if in Athens these patterns led to the almost complete extinction of tribal relations, then in Sparta the process of the emergence of the state was characterized by significant features and was accompanied by the preservation of significant remnants of the tribal organization.

The main feature of the historical development of Sparta was the intervention of an external violent factor in the formation of class society. The migration of tribes on the Balkan Peninsula, which began in the XII century BC, was accompanied by military clashes between them. The unification of the conquerors of the alien Dorian tribes with the local Achaean ones in the Lakeonia valley led to the formation of a Spartan community and allowed it to develop in the VIII-VII centuries BC. expand the boundaries of their possessions, enslave the population of the conquered neighboring region-Messenia, and make dependent the population that lived on the periphery of the conquered territory.

The conquest led to the emergence of joint ownership of land by the conquerors — the main means of production in those conditions — and slaves. Along with it, a clear class differentiation emerged — the Spartiates became the dominant class of slaveholders, and the conquered inhabitants became slaves or incomplete citizens.

The organization of political power among the Spartiates was typical of the period of the collapse of the primitive communal system — two tribal leaders (as a result of the unification of Dorian and Achaean tribes), a council of elders, and a national assembly. But it did not provide sufficient means for dominating the conquered population, which was about 20 times larger than the conquerors. Objectively, there was a need for an organization of political power that does not coincide with the entire population, providing a small part of it with domination over the mass of enslaved people.

Sparta among the Greek poleis

At the same time, the necessity of dominating the enslaved masses and ensuring their exploitation required the unity of the Spartiates and the preservation of certain elements of the tribal community. This was also favored by the agricultural nature of the economy of Sparta, the well-known isolation of the country's territory, closed by mountain ranges, which hindered the development of foreign trade and commodity-money relations. The combination of these circumstances led to the preservation of significant elements of military democracy even in the conditions of a fully formed class society.

The social and political structure of Sparta during this period was fixed by a retra (treaty) attributed to the legendary legislator Lycurgus. Lycurgus as a historical figure probably did not exist, the time of his reforms is not exactly established. It is believed that Retra belongs to the VIII-VII centuries BC, and finally the "Lycurgus system" was formed by the end of the VII-beginning of the VI century BC. Retra (perhaps there were several of them) tried to solve two main tasks-to ensure the unity of the Spartiates by curbing property differentiation between them and to create an organization of their joint domination over the conquered population.

Features of the social system

In Sparta, a peculiar class slave-owning society was formed, which preserved significant remnants of primitive communal relations.

The ruling class consisted of the Spartiates. Only they were considered full citizens. While maintaining the joint ownership of land by citizens, belonging to the ruling class was maintained by providing each spartiate with a land plot (clera) for use, along with slaves — helots attached to it, whose labor provided the means of subsistence for the Spartiate and its family. The earth is divided into 9,000 roughly equal, undivided and inalienable clairs. They could not be sold, given, or bequeathed.

The Spartiates lived in the semblance of a city that united 5 villages and resembled a kind of military camp. Their way of life was strictly regulated. The main duty was considered military. To prepare children for this duty, they were sent to special schools for State education starting at the age of seven. Special officials-pedonoms developed discipline and unquestioning compliance with the instructions of their elders, strength and endurance, military skills and bravery. Training ended at the age of 20. From the age of 20 to 60, the Spartians served in the military. Adult men were united in age and other unions that determined the social status of their members. A select few citizens were part of the privileged corps of 300 Horsemen. Women, who were almost completely freed from the household and the care of raising children, had some independence and had leisure for personal development.

In order to maintain unity, the spartiates were required to participate in public meals-sissitia, organized at the expense of the established monthly contributions of the spartiates. The portions of sissitia participants were equal. Officials received honorary shares. The clothing and weapons of the warriors were the same. Lycurgus ' rules against luxury also contributed to maintaining the unity of the Spartiates. Spartiates were also forbidden to trade, and heavy, inconvenient iron coins were introduced for them.

However, these restrictions could not prevent the development of property differentiation, which undermined the unity and" equality " of the Spartiates. Since land plots were inherited only by the eldest sons, the rest could only receive extortionate plots. If there were no such people, they passed into the category of hypomeions (descended) and lost the right to participate in the people's assembly and sissitia. The number of hypomeions steadily increased, and the number of spartiates decreased accordingly-from nine to four thousand by the end of the IV century BC.

The Perieks-inhabitants of the peripheral mountainous and barren regions of Sparta - occupied a legally intermediate position between the Spartiates and the Helots. They were personally free, had property legal capacity, but did not enjoy political rights and were under the supervision of special officials — colonists. They were subject to military duty: they had to participate in battles as heavily armed soldiers. The main occupation of the Perieks is trade and craft. Their position was similar to that of the Athenian Meteks, but unlike the latter, the highest officials of the state could execute them without trial.

The Helots — the enslaved inhabitants of Messenia, were the property of the state. They were placed at the disposal of the Spartiates, cultivated their land and gave them about half of the harvest (the Spartiates used slaves from prisoners of war for domestic work). Although in Sparta, as in Athens, the exploitation of slave labor became the basis of social production, collective Spartan slavery was different from classical slavery. Ilotia was a specific form of slavery. The Helots were almost self-sufficient farmers, were not commodities like slaves, and were free to dispose of the remainder of their crops. Their economic and social situation was close to that of serfs. It is assumed that they had a family and formed some kind of community, which was the collective property of the Spartiate community.

Helots participated in the wars of Sparta as lightly armed warriors. They could buy their freedom, but in other respects they were completely disenfranchised. Every year, the Spartiates declared war on the Helots, accompanied by mass murder. However, killing a helot was also allowed at any other time.

Organization of power

The state system of Sparta was formed as a result of the transformation of military democracy into a state organization that retained some features of the tribal organization of power. This led to the" Lycurgus system", which was formed, as noted, by the VI century BC.e. Some historians consider it as a coup associated with the end of the conquest of Messenia and the establishment of Ilotia, which required the consolidation of the Spartiate community by equalizing them in economic terms and political rights, turning it into a military camp that dominates the masses of the enslaved population.

At the head of the state were two archagetes. In literature, they are often referred to as kings, although even the Athenian basileus, for whom the term king is conditional, had more power than the Spartan leaders. The power of the Archagetes, in contrast to the power of tribal leaders, became hereditary, which, however, did not make it permanent. Every 8 years, star divination was conducted, as a result of which the archagetes could be put on trial or removed from office. Sometimes they were displaced without this procedure.

But in general, the position of the Archagetes was honorable. They received most of the spoils of war, made sacrifices, served on the council of elders, and served as judges in certain cases that were important to the entire community. Initially, the military power of the Archagetes was the most complete. They were subject to the army, in campaigns they enjoyed the right of life and death. However, in the future, their military powers were significantly limited.

The Council of Elders (gerusia), like the Archagetes, is an authority inherited from the tribal organization. The Gerusia consisted of 28 geronts, elected for life by the People's Assembly from the noble Spartiates who had reached the age of 60. The Gerusia also included both chiefs. Initially, the gerusia considered the issues that were put up for discussion by the National Assembly, and thus had the opportunity to direct its activities. Over time, the powers of Gerusia expanded. If the geronts and leaders did not agree with the decision of the national assembly, they could prevent it by leaving the assembly. Gerusia participated in negotiations with other states, considered criminal cases of state crimes and conducted legal proceedings against the Archagetes.

All Spartiats who have reached the age of 30 participated in the national assembly. Initially, the meeting was called by the leaders, who also presided over it. Only officials or ambassadors of foreign states could speak in the National Assembly, while participants in the assembly only listened to speeches and voted. Voting was carried out by shouting, and in controversial cases, the participants of the meeting dispersed in different directions.

The National Assembly was called once a month (except for emergency meetings). At the meeting, laws were passed, officials were elected, issues of war and peace, alliance with other states were resolved, questions about the inheritance of the position of leader were considered, it was determined which of the leaders to lead the army in the campaign, etc. In all these matters, the role of the assembly, by virtue of its procedure, was less important than that of the People's Assembly in Athens. But still, it should not be downplayed. The right to elect officials, the right to reject proposals made by them, allowed him, if not to control them, then at least to influence them, to force them to take account of themselves. It is only by the fourth century BC that it becomes passive,and its role decreases.

Ephors in Sparta appeared in the VIII century BC as a result of acute conflicts between tribal leaders and the tribal aristocracy. The latter, which received a large share of the spoils of war and the opportunity to oppress free communes, sought to limit the lifetime power of leaders to the power of representatives of the aristocracy elected for a certain term. They were five ephors. They were elected from among the "worthy" for one year, operated by a single board that made decisions by a majority vote. Initially, the Ephors were considered as assistants to the Archagetes and carried out judicial consideration of cases on property disputes. Since the middle of the sixth century BC, the power of the Ephors has increased markedly. They put the Archagetes under their control — they were accompanied by two ephors on the campaign. The Ephors were given the right to call the Gerusia and the People's Assembly and direct their activities. Together with Gerusia, the opi could have prevented the People's Assembly from making a decision that they did not like. They took over the management of Sparta's foreign relations and internal administration of the country, monitoring the observance of established procedures by the Spartiates, trying and punishing them, declaring war and peace, and controlling the activities of other officials (who were much less numerous in Sparta than in Athens). The activities of the ephors themselves were practically not controlled — they reported only to their successors. The special position of ephors was also emphasized by their right not to participate in general sessions and to have their own table.

Crisis of the political system of Sparta

The monolithic social structure of the ruling class, which became a powerful military organization, contributed to the rapid rise of Sparta among the Greek states. By the fifth century BC, it had established its hegemony over almost the entire Peloponnese, leading the Peloponnesian Symmachus. Stagnation in socio-economic and political life, spiritual impoverishment-the price of domination over the Helots-make Sparta the center of reaction in Greece. At the same time, victory in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). the huge contribution received from Athens sharply stimulated the processes of property differentiation of the Spartiates and the development of commodity-money relations. They became even more severe with the authorization of gifts and bequests of land plots at the beginning of the fourth century BC (their sale was still not allowed, but probably took place). The size of allotments of the nobility also increases due to the acquisition of land (from Helots) on the outskirts of the state. The trade ban is no longer enforced.

The old ascetic Spartan way of life is becoming a thing of the past. Mass ruin of ordinary spartiates leads to the loss of their land plots and, consequently, full rights. The unity of the Spartan community is being destroyed, its military power is falling — the number of full-fledged Spartiates is decreasing, and mercenaries are appearing. The loss of Messenia in the fourth century BC as a result of the Macedonian conquest of Greece, along with parts of the land and Helots, undermined the economic foundation of the Spartan state.

Attempts made in the third century BC at the request of the ruined Spartiates to restore the old order by redistributing land, destroying debts, restoring military power by granting citizenship rights to the non-full-fledged inhabitants of Sparta failed. Objective laws of development of slave-owning society inexorably led to the collapse of social and political orders that preserved the collectivist remnants of the communal system.

Finally weakened and torn apart by internal strife, Sparta, like all the Greek states, in the middle of the second century BC. e. falls under the rule of Rome.

Related topics

Ancient Greece